On Land with Bush Medicine and Women

April 13, 2019

A bus picked me up at about 8:47 full of indigenous women. All 7 of the women's skin was rich like the wet earth, attuned to the strength of the sun. There were a few generations in the bus. They were speaking language. I sat down next to Margret Scobie by her invitation.

 

We drove out past the airport, through the trees scattered and shapeshifting by sun, wind, and song. Upon arriving at a place under a lemon-scented gum by a rocky hill and some scatterings of previous visits, we set up mats, a fire-pit and unloaded the mortar and pestles for preparing bush-medicine (Arrwatnurlke). From what I currently understand, it is used and adaptable in many forms of skin healing, drying out sores, and 'clarifying’ wounds. It is a rosemary-looking sprig with blue-green colored hues and a soft, white-ish coating (a minuscule fuzz). The smell is distinct like thyme, lemon, and strong, bitter medicine. It would require one to actually smell it to know the sensation of being with the medicine.

 

We sat out, surrounded by flies and the women spoke language. For about 3 hours I spoke very little but I observed much. I was fed and invited to prepare the bush medicine with the women. I was looked after as I moved to urinate, to flee the flies, to reach for more sprigs of bush medicine and to stretch my body. Here, I realized a piece of the magic of Unlearning. In my supposition of asking questions and knowing, I began to observe the way my mind was conditioned to engage begin to melt away. I didn't need to ask questions because the women would have to stop speaking language to explain something to me that I wouldn't remember for the application of my own practice. In this invitation, my place was to listen, to be still and to learn from the presence of just Being welcomed there. At the beginning of this time I spent many moments ruminating on who to ‘engage’ and how to engage as an outsider to this group of women. One of my internal steps to transcend this rumination was to invite myself to show up there as I was. That meant allowing my perspective to shift from how I was used to engaging to how an outsider would engage. “Make yourself at home (in the wild),” I remembered Gigi from Bluegum Bushcraft saying as mentors and families gathered around the fire last November. Start fresh. Drop into inner-knowing. Get to know the wild and unknown. Accept your place. Like I said… I didn’t speak much. I made some sounds from deep inside my body. I hummed some songs. I adjusted my body to new surroundings until I felt small shifts in familiarity again.

The flies became too much, and sitting in the red dirt meant being crawled all over by ants... it was inescapable. We cannot 'remove' ourselves from nature. We all packed up. Without anyone telling me what to do, I had jobs to do once I self-actualized. It was so surprisingly simple in the face of initial discomfort.

 

We drove home and I gave supportive hand-holds to some of the women, saying goodbye in my exhaustion and need for rest, I walked home for 45 minutes and achieved a great amount of reflection, dispelling much of my minds inflections.

 

There are internalized power structures actively working against the ‘reconciliation’ process. They are our own to take response-ability for. This is a part of the reconciliation, reanimation, rekindling that is in longing to reconnect us to ourselves and to those (human and non-human) we’ve been systematically dis-connected from. Here in this story, I explored a bit more depth to the act of listening before speaking, or even questioning. This act of presensing re-defined barriers between me and the other allowed a new sense of Belonging. I found a new sense of inhabiting place by reflecting on Belonging to my own sovereignty while simultaneously honouring another's sovereignty.

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